As far as COVID news Wednesday morning, the flow has been particularly heavy out of the UK, where the government's scientific advisors are reportedly ready to officially declare that those who become infected with the omicron strain are less likely to become severely ill, something that health experts in South Africa (where the variant was first identified) and around the world is likely true (though we only have a few weeks' worth of data to go on right now).
But despite this, the variant is still not mild enough to avoid causing large numbers of hospitalizations.
The data is culled from the UK Health Security Agency's upcoming report on the severity of the disease before Christmas, Politico reported.
And speaking of hospitalizations, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID caused by the omicron variant has climbed to 129 as of Wednesday morning, according to data released by HMG. Leaving aside the issue of the new variant's inherent infectiousness, governments around the world expect the coming winter wave to be milder than last year's - at least in terms of the number of deaths and hospitalizations threatening to overwhelm the system - because many more (literally billions) have been vaccinated since this time last year.
A notable exception to this is Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Bill Gates, who tweeted just yesterday that the upcoming omicron-driven wave could be the worst yet. The UK has notably seen case numbers rise to record levels over the past week, while the US (and much of the rest of Europe) are still hanging on to their records from last winter.
Meanwhile, as complaints about tightening travel restrictions spread, the British government offered the people a small concession: it was reducing the COVID-19 self-isolation period to seven days from 10 days for people in England who get a negative result on a lateral flow test two days in a row.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the decision was an attempt to "reduce the disruption" caused by COVID (or rather, from measures imposed by the government for the purpose of supposedly stopping or slowing COVID). And even after, those who leave their self-isolation after only 7 days are advised to limit contact with others.
At this point, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and South Korea have reimposed partial or full lockdowns, or other social distancing measures.
Israel, meanwhile, is preparing to launch its guidance for doling out second booster doses to all of its people (starting with the most vulnerable), according to Reuters.
Speaking to the radio of the Israeli military, Arnon Shahar, a doctor on an Israeli Health Ministry expert panel, said "we are seeing a waning of protection against Omicron infection. This wave is growing in surprisingly high numbers...more than 80% of the panel supported this measure."
The tweet below nicely sums up the status of COVID in Israel.
💉As Israel plans to roll out 4th shot, a reminder that the country is far from being a leader in #coronavirus vaccines.— ℝ𝕠𝕤𝕚𝕖 𝕊𝕔𝕒𝕞𝕞𝕖𝕝𝕝 (@rosiescammell) December 22, 2021
📉 63% of the population have received 2 doses.
🗺️ Dozens of countries have higher rates.
🏃 Israel may have won the sprint, but certainly not the marathon.
To go into effect, the recommendations must be approved by the ministry's director-general, Nachman Ash. The ministry did not say when that might happen.
Finally, as the US FDA prepares to officially sanction new COVID pills produced by Pfizer and Merck, the British have decided to also put in an order to increase their stockpiles of the as-yet-unapproved drugs. NHS has secured 4.25M courses of the two COVID pills.